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Old 09-11-2007, 06:46 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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ePub becomes the official IDPF standard!

Congratulations to the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) and Executive Director Nick Bogaty on the completion of the new .ePub standard. It includes both the previously accepted OCF 1.0 zip-based container standard, as well as the newly approved e-book structure.

Already, we know that Sony and Adobe and others have jumped on board, so this is a significant achievement for the e-book world. It aims to become the flowable e-book text equivalent of the wildly successful Adobe Reader format for fixed page format books. The road is far from determined, however, as the IDPF is sure to face challenges from the likes of Microsoft and Amazon (MobiPocket).

What a great way for Nick to finish off his tenure at the IDPF. As Bill McCoy has previously shared, Nick Bogaty will be moving into a new position with Adobe. Our best wishes and sincere thanks go out to Nick for his great work.

For those who are interested in the details, here are a couple of excerpts from the IDPF announcement letter to its members:

"I am very pleased to announce that the IDPF membership has elected to elevate the status of the Open Publication Structure (OPS 2.0) to a Recommended Specification, an official IDPF industry standard. The specification can be found at:

http://www.idpf.org/2007/ops/index.htm

Supporting documentation, implementation and tools on the entire .epub standard (comprised of OCF 1.0 and OPS 2.0) can be found at:

http://www.idpf.org/forums"

"There are a number of companies and organizations who have already implemented .epub into their products and workflows. I encourage all IDPF members to continue to promote .epub as the standard file format for digital reflowable publications; doing so will significantly grow our industry."

If the standard becomes popular, then with the addition of a standard interoperable DRM (not a small task), could we finally see hope for true cross platform and cross publisher e-book compatibility for customers? I don't know, but it sure appears that we are a lot closer than we were a year ago!

Last edited by Bob Russell; 09-12-2007 at 05:23 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 09-11-2007, 08:00 PM   #2
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without Amazon (MobiPocket) and Microsoft can we really talk about a "standard"?

Even Adobe in their implementation "extended" the IDPF specification, adding on stuff that's needed but not "standardized".

IDPF has a lot of work ahead and being a consortium they'll always move way slower than a sw copmany.
I wish them good luck but don't believe in them any more.
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Old 09-11-2007, 08:10 PM   #3
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I seem to recall that Mobi had made some comments that suggested they were looking at supporting .epub. Something to the effect that they could open the .epub doc and transparently convert the contents to .mobi format for displaying on their viewer.

Such an approach wouldn't make .epub a use standard, but a distribution standard that can feed most or all of the available hardware is close enough for the girls I go with.
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Old 09-11-2007, 09:58 PM   #4
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To date .epub implementation & Amazon/Mobi

Quote:
Originally Posted by sic View Post
without Amazon (MobiPocket) and Microsoft can we really talk about a "standard"?

Even Adobe in their implementation "extended" the IDPF specification, adding on stuff that's needed but not "standardized".
I think it is important to remember that the .epub standards, OCF 1.0 (the container spec) and OPS 2.0 (the markup spec) are both quite new. In fact, OPS 2.0, as the topic of this thread states, was approved Monday. That said, Adobe, SONY, OSoft, VitalSource Technolgies, eBook Technologies, LibreDigital and others have all either implemented .epub or plan to in the near future. I hope that, in future products, Microsoft and any other company releasing products in this industry will consider and implement the specs. They are patent unencumbered and completely free to use.

There is also widespread support for .epub from publishers, large and small, trade, education and scientific, who all participated in the creation of the specs. Already, many have contracted conversion houses to produce .epub files and/or created internal systems to author .epub (Adobe inDesign CS3, by the way, produces .epub as an export feature).

Industry-wide use of these specs will significantly lower production costs for eBooks leading to increased selection for customers and allow interoperability for unencrypted digital books between software that implements .epub.

As for Amazon/Mobi implementation, I have addressed this in a previous post (dated 9/7) and have pasted url and the post below for reference. I hope it helps.

Thanks,
Nick

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Hello all,

I received a number of calls and emails yesterday in regard to the New York Times article on eBooks specific to Amazon's plans to implement open standards in the Kindle. People seemed to be alarmed by the below paragraph in the piece which reads:

"Some also complain about the fact that Amazon is using a proprietary e-book format from Mobipocket, a French company that Amazon bought in 2005, instead of supporting the open e-book standard backed by most major publishers and high-tech companies like Adobe. That means owners of other digital book devices, like the Sony Reader, will not be able to use books purchased on Amazon.com."

Amazon has been very (and maybe smartly) tight-lipped on their release plans for the Kindle and I don't have any special knowledge about development and version plans. However, in the development of OCF and OPS, the two specifications that make up the .epub standard, both Mobipocket and Amazon have expressed to me, the IDPF working groups responsible for the specs and other IDPF members as to their intention to implement .epub. I have every indication that they're going to do this. A clear sign of this is found in Mobipocket Reader 6.0 where there is an option to import OCF files which is the container part of .epub. This takes the OCF file, unzips it, and then converts to .mobi; completely automated. Reader 6.0 was released before OPS 2.0 (the markup part of .epub whose final member vote ends Monday), so I can only assume that their OPS implementation will come in the next version of their Reader software.

Again, I have no inside knowledge of Amazon's development plans, but it seems to me that Times quote might have been based on incorrect information.

Hope this helps,
Nick

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Old 09-11-2007, 10:09 PM   #5
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Yes, epub is relatively new and there's still some extra-work to do for both content and software/hardware support.

I've been playing with the format these last few weeks and I must say that what we're generating with our latest test on Feedbooks is much nicer than OEB already. TOCs are a bit too complicated to generate though, and I was wondering about 2 things:
  • hyphenation: Are soft hyphens supported ? Will some of the software supporting epub use an auto hyphenation ?
  • Is there any online ressource to check if an epub file is considered valid or not ?
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Old 09-11-2007, 10:33 PM   #6
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I'll be manually creating an ePub file of my latest novel (probably this weekend). Depending on my success, I'll be creating ePub files of my other novels in short order. Since I'm only talking about 10 books, manual formatting isn't out of the question. However, I will be looking forward to a more automated process down the line (whether I use InDesign or not... which, right now, I'm not).
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Old 09-12-2007, 12:24 AM   #7
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This can only be good news for the future of ebooks. Since Sony relies on Adobe to supply the PDF/DE rendering software, they should be one of the first to implement this new standard. While they may add extensions to the standard, they will still be able to render all standard ebooks.
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Old 09-12-2007, 02:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbogaty View Post
...leading to increased selection for customers and allow interoperability for unencrypted digital books between software that implements .epub.
I certainly look forward to that, and in the long run I hope it is a reality. In the short run, I think epub actually makes the current situation worse. The key in the above quote is unencrypted. I look forward to devices that support epub, and I hope to see support at Fictionwise, where they have a nice variety of unencrypted books. Still, how much of the market is unencrypted? Without a standard DRM, the various vendors will have to implement their own systems, resulting in additional file types. It's like buying videos protected by Real Media, MS WMV, and iTunes DRMs. The fact that all the files contain MPEG4 video makes things easier for the content producers, but does not simplify things for the end user.

I would love it if DRM went the way of the dodo, and maybe this will be the impetus publishers need, but that seems unlikely.

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Old 09-12-2007, 02:57 AM   #9
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I just checked Manybooks. They convert to many formats, but ePub does not appear to be available. I hope they offer this soon.
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Old 09-12-2007, 06:43 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell View Post
I don't know, but it sure appears that we are a lot closer than we were a year ago!
It only appears that way. They still didn't close the loophole in the OCF:

2.2 “Abstract Container” vs. “Physical Container”

No standard physical container is required. They recommend ZIP, but also allow for a "file system container" (translate: companies can follow the standard but still create an eBook that can only be read by their device).

So I see no improvement. All idpf seems to have done is discussed XML (for how long?) and came up with something that is just as proprietary as any other format out there.
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Old 09-12-2007, 06:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack B Nimble View Post
Without a standard DRM, the various vendors will have to implement their own systems, resulting in additional file types.
"Standard DRM" cannot exist. DRM relies on a secret. The eBook Reader must know that secret in order to display the DRMed content.

If you document that secret, it's no longer a secret and the DRM can be removed (remember what DVD Jon did?).
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Old 09-12-2007, 07:35 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogui View Post
I just checked Manybooks. They convert to many formats, but ePub does not appear to be available. I hope they offer this soon.
They won't be able to fully support what ePub can do though, Manybooks doesn't support TOCs for example.
Feedbooks will provide both books and RSS feeds using ePub as soon as we've finished working on it.
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Old 09-12-2007, 07:44 AM   #13
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You even do not need to know the secret to decrypt and therefore defeat DRM.
See how the decryption of Mobipockert texts works. The iLiad Java Reader is shanghaied to deliver the unencrypted text. Oh you need to buy the book to decrypt, but the decrypted content does not bear any mark of where it came from.
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Old 09-12-2007, 10:31 AM   #14
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Validation of .epub files

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hadrien View Post
Yes, epub is relatively new and there's still some extra-work to do for both content and software/hardware support.

I've been playing with the format these last few weeks and I must say that what we're generating with our latest test on Feedbooks is much nicer than OEB already. TOCs are a bit too complicated to generate though, and I was wondering about 2 things:
  • hyphenation: Are soft hyphens supported ? Will some of the software supporting epub use an auto hyphenation ?
  • Is there any online ressource to check if an epub file is considered valid or not ?
I am glad to hear that your .epub experience has been nicer than OEB. I will get back to you on auto-hyphenation, but to your point on validation. As opposed to OEB, OPS (the markup part of .epub) requires valid XHTML. There was a major problem with OEB in that it did not require valid XHTML which left many "flavors" of OEB; not quite the point of a standard. OPS, however, does require valid XHTML and therefore .epub files should all be valid and processed identically by software that implements the specs. Several members of the IDPF are currently developing an .epub validation tool which can run off of the desktop. It is almost finished and, once it is, will be freely available for public use on the idpf website. In the future, there are plans to build a web interface for people to validate (and the opportunity to apply a valid logo to their websites, products etc.) their .epub files.

I'd expect the downloadable validation tool to be available in the next month or two.

-Nick

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Old 09-12-2007, 02:14 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogui View Post
I just checked Manybooks. They convert to many formats, but ePub does not appear to be available. I hope they offer this soon.
When the tools are available to do the conversion in a scripted manner, I'm sure they will.
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